The ArmyTek Predator just may be the most complex flashlight you may ever find outside of custom creations. Do those custom features come at a price of usability, or is it as well thought out as it is versatile?
Meat and Potatoes
If options are your desire, then you have met your match with the ArmyTek Predator. There are barely any options that you could possibly think of that aren’t included on this magnificent light. You are able to select not only the brightness and order of the lights modes, also a host of other choices. You get how many modes in each “line”, what voltage input range and low end cutoff to define your power source, even whether you want mode memory on either or both of the “lines”. truly the selections are dizzying. There is really no way that you can fail to find a setup that will suit your needs.
The most unique decision to face you as an owner is a flashlight first, you get to choose your regulation type. ArmyTek offers a trio of regulation styles that are designed to meet your individual needs. Full regulation is designed to keep the light turning on at exactly the same chosen output throughout the life of your power source, never dimming until the cell or cells are depleted. Semi regulation allows smooth dimming over time as your cell is drained. Step regulation will still dim your output as the input lowers, but will do so in controlled steps rather than gradually over time. These appear to me as options that most owners have never realized that they need simply because nobody has ever offered it to them before. I can imagine that more manufacturers may follow suit over time as people realize how useful it is to be able to make this choice.
ArmyTek’s positive points don’t lie strictly within the realm of its flexibility though. There is a whole lot of just plain old-fashioned good flashlight here as well. The machine work on the Predator is very well accomplished. It doesn’t look like someone just made a tube, machined some flats and slapped a little knurling on it, calling it good. Rather it looks like it was carefully planned out from an artistic standpoint to make a light that, to me at least, looks pretty darn good. The various visual accents are subtle, yet interesting, and none of it looks garish. The anodizing is a flawless matte black that looks most similar to what I have seen on Elzetta products. ArmyTek even offers choices in the visual cues as well. The predator can be had with either the matte stainless steel accents that you see here, or a beautifully functional, gold-toned titanium nitride coating. Either one makes for a unique combination that looks fantastic.
The overall beam shape is what you would expect from the pairing of a Cree XP-G LED and a deep smooth finish reflector. There is a very clearly defined spot and a broad gradual corona transitioning into a still-useful spill. What is also noticeable though is a relative lack of artifacts disrupting the beam. This is one of the smoothest beams I have seen coming off from a smooth reflector. Generally I start to sound like a broken record here requesting a light stipple to help things out, but here is one of the few times I don’t feel I need to. At full power (claiming 500 lumens) the Predator’s beam is relatively indistinguishable from other lights in this category.
For all the options that are given you, there is only two input devices offered to select from them. Though the actual programmed UI feels very familiar and simple, the complete programming sequence is also accomplished through a series of button presses and head twists, often requiring precise timing. This task could be quite daunting to novice users who may not yet understand the benefits available from this level of customization.
As an experiment, I decided to completely reprogram my light from its default setting to something far more custom, just to test how long doing so would take. From the factory the Predator comes set in what ArmyTek calls its “Military” mode. This consists of Line 1 (starting with the head tightened) as Low-Med-High constant light and Line 2 (starting with head loosened ¼ turn) as strobe and Firefly. The light is set to use 2xCR123A, full regulation, and both lines have mode memory. My “custom” UI just for the sake of science was going to be: Line 1 as 100%-75%-50%-25%-1% with no mode memory, Line 2 as Firefly-Beacon-SOS-Strobe slow(1hz)-strobe fast(50hz) with mode memory. I also was setting it to use stepped regulation and 1x18650 3.7V cell. I even went so far as to diagram out a short cheat sheet to help me navigate the menus without flipping back and forth between the 8 pages of flashlight manual. Because of first-time programmer mistakes and things I had to try more than once to get them right, the overall programming time cost me a half an hour of my day. This could be quite an intimidating factor to some users.
The silver lining to this story though is that once you get the light setup the way you want it, you are never required to change it again. The programming can be simply a one time affair leaving you with a custom UI that potentially no manufacturer would ever come out with. For my own part though, once I was done with the experiment I actually reverted back to the “Military” setting it was originally shipped with, changing only the power source to utilize an 18650 instead of lithium primarys. I actually find the default setting to be quite useful.
The Predator is a very worthy light that is usable directly out of the box. It is bright, far-reaching, and very well made. Its true glory is revealed though to those who have the patience to truly delve into the setup menus and turn it from a good light in general to a great light for their individual needs.
Provided for review by the kind folks at ArmyTek.